This year’s celebration of International Youth Day encourages people to adopt a global sense of social responsibility with regard to sustainability and urges young people to participate fully in this challenge.
The theme, Sustainability: Our challenge. Our future, encompasses the mutually inclusive environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability. Environmental sustainability in particular featured prominently in discussions at the recent Pacific Youth Festival.
Young people attending the festival held in Fiji Islands in July 2009 were encouraged to take an active role in promoting awareness and adopting environmentally friendly attitudes on climate change.
Secretariat of the Pacific Community Human Development Adviser (Youth) Rose Maebiru says the festival provided an important opportunity to bring youth voices together so that their opinions and ideas, whether they be on sustainability or other issues, were heard widely.
‘One of the benefits of the festival is the networking that happens,’ she says. ‘For example at the youth festival in July a number of youth groups advocating responses to climate change at local and national levels were able to expand their networks and now hope to be able to influence efforts to address climate change at regional and international levels.’
Speaking at a symposium on climate change at the festival, Seema Deo from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), called on young people to arm themselves with the skills to better manage existing natural resources in order to lessen the impacts of climate change.
‘Learning to live with climate change will require multiple new skills and greater awareness about its impacts and causes’, Ms Deo said.
She also called for more responsible management of resources. ‘Communities must change certain environmentally harmful practices such as overharvesting of resources.’
Ben Namakin, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Revolution, a regional environmental lobby group, also addressed young people during the climate change symposium, saying that in the Pacific the impacts of climate change could include human rights issues if, for example, people lose their land and livelihoods.
He encouraged young people to raise their concerns with their leaders, who can advocate at an international level. ‘It is important for us to make a stand and be vocal,’ he said.
After the climate change session a participant from Tonga, Penisimani Vainikolo, said he intended to advocate proper management of resources when he returned home.
‘In Tonga, there is a lot of subsistence farming and logging. I will campaign to encourage young people to plant more trees and use resources wisely to reduce our country’s vulnerability to climate change,’ he said.
Angela Talaha and Josiane Tofeila from the Wallis and Futuna delegation expressed their concerns about how the effects of climate change were already posing a threat in their country.
‘Our small islands surrounding Wallis are becoming smaller due to big waves eroding the sand and we are losing our land,’ Ms Talaha said.
The consequences of climate change are already beginning to be felt but it is today’s young people who will face its more significant effects. To ensure a sustainable future, governments must support youth initiatives that address climate change and the environment, and invest in young people’s education, health and livelihoods to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet this challenge.
For more information please contact Rose Maebiru, Human Development Adviser (Youth) by phone: +687 26 01 97 or email:
or Tione Chinula, Human Development Programme Advocacy and Communications Officer by phone: +687 26 01 57 or email: